Time to get serious

Now it is Thursday, September 31 2019.

It’s still morning, I have had breakfast and am now sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knees and a cup of coffee on the side. It’s calm here, quiet, peaceful, and I intend to write something! But what?

Tomorrow, the NaNoWriMo quest begins. Am I nervous? No. Troubled? No. Excited? Yeah! A bit! Looking forward to it!

Have I decided which language to write in?
Well! It’s still a bit hard to decide that. Writing in Swedish is naturally much easier, quicker, but…

What if I suddenly want to share a snippet of my writings with you, I can’t do that if it is written in Swedish. And what I came to think of as late as yesterday, was that this Mz Eliza Elderberry might show up in the story I’m already writing. She could very well do that. The Mechanical Man did!

Then it would be a pity if I write this November’s NaNo in Swedish.

Am I clear on that? Yes, I think so. AND! After all, I’ll try my best not to focus too much on how many words I MUST write. That would stress me too much. I’ll just keep on writing, and writing, and writing – and also try my best not to bother about spelling wrong, or not finding the “right” word. All that I’ll cope with later.

BUT! Then there was Elaine. The British lady who has been living here in Sweden for quite many years, has been teaching English and French in school, and overall is a very nice person. I like her! Like talking to her!

But I realized fairly soon that we are the opposites of each other. She is very square, and I don’t mean her physical appearance. Okay, maybe a little there as well. But more in her way of thinking, her personality, not that much able to “think around the corners”. Following rules without questioning.

We became friends rather quickly, and I one day asked her if she would mind reading a bit of my novel, and tell me how my English was. Specifically, I wanted her to check out the prepositions, I know I often chose the wrong ones. Not doing anything deeply, just a brief reading through the text. I also pointed out it was just a first draft, I hadn’t edited it at all, so  the literary accomplishments she shouldn’t worry about.

It has taken her a very long time to read that piece. But that doesn’t matter. Some words I’ve gotten from her from time to time. I write very well, she says. She’s impressed since I have a large vocabulary, and she wants to read the entire story. When asking her, she said the story was floating along very well, and the characters had life, they were not dead, flat paper-dolls.

Of course, I was happy hearing that!

Then, esterday I got a mail. With some criticism. It wasn’t much, but we will see each other this afternoon, and maybe she’ll have more for me then. Don’t know, just have to wait and see.

Well! Bad criticism always takes us down, doesn’t it? So naturally I felt a bit hurt. Not much, the criticism wasn’t that bad! But still! It was this tiny pinch in my stomach. But what can I say? I asked for it! I wanted to know what I do wrong, so I can learn and do better!

First of all, she told me I should choose to write either in British OR American English! Of course! I know that! Have known all the time. But I have told her – THIS IS JUST A DRAFT.
Just fairly recently I said to myself I wanted it to be written in British English since through my school-years and studies later on it were always British English. But also – I like it, I like the sound of it!

But she has a point there, which I will adapt to. She wrote: “You seem to be more used to American English.” I didn’t have to think much before I gave her her thumb up for this. I AM more used to American English. Through all the books I read and have read. To all movies and TV-series I watch and have watched. The blogging…

She has also her points about the grammar, and how to properly build sentences. I sometimes put adverbs in the wrong place, for example.

All those matters I have to study more, and perhaps, she will give me more examples from my text.

She didn’t mention anything about the prepositions, though. Does that mean I’m doing that fairly well now? After all? Or will she throw a bomb on my later with all the crap I write?

What I don’t understand at all, is what is wrong with “ain’t”.
If I used “ain’t” I should use it all the time, she claimed. Never (never, never?) use “isn’t” or “aren’t”.  Is that really true?

I thought, ain’t belongs to I. As instead of writing: I am not (be going to or doing this or that), I’ll write “I ain’t”, meaning, I refuse to. What has that to do with “aren’t” and “isn’t”??? First, second or third person? Singular – plural?

Okay! “It ain’t necessarily soooo…”

Then the issue of when I should use “as if” instead of “like” – I guess I have to find myself a good grammar lexicon…

There are all those examples where she is very strict and formal in how to use the language. I’ve noticed that earlier. She didn’t make any comment on that part of my writings now.

The example I back then showed her, was that to me wonderful use of “the wrong” word to show something. The book “Girl in Translation” by Jean Kwok, it was.

The had been playing hookey for a week, and she was so afraid her mother would have noticed. The young man at the workplace, who she was secretly interested in as well, calmed her by saying, he knew since he often had done that himself, but her mother didn’t. Then…
“Really,” she warmed to him.
And I saw the relief in her, how happy she got. The warmth was floating around her.

Elaine said: “That’s wrong. You can’t write like that.”

Oh yes! You can!
And I can. I can show, not just tell. I can USE the language. Yes, I can. (Maybe just not all the English grammar.)

 

12 Replies to “Time to get serious”

  1. Good luck with the start of NaNo, Thea. And good for you for not putting too much pressure on yourself. I’m going that route too. Just write, write, write. And how lovely of Elaine to take the time to give you feedback. That really is a gift even when it pinches (especially when it pinches). You may not take all her advice, but specific constructive criticism does make a writer reflect and make conscious choices about their style and prose. And that’s always a positive thing. ❤

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    1. Thank you, Diana! I wish you the same!
      I’m not sure Elaine is particularly constructive, nor open minded in this specific area. But she knows grammar, that’s for sure, and that is a help I need.

      She also seems keen to do it. Today she asked me if I had some more for her to read. She likes the story! 😀 😀 😀

      After seeing her book shelves, I wasn’t sure she would like fantasy novels like mine. I don’t think she has met the shape-shifter yet, and definitely not the two elves that can transform into a hawk and a ferret. I just wonder… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. British and American English are so different (and South African English, too). I’m British by birth and over the past couple of years I’ve helped edit a few of my author friend’s books. He’s South African, but writes in American English, so it’s been a really interesting experience. Oh and by the way his name is Paul English 😉 I use Merriam Webster’s online dictionary to help me out with some of the ‘Americanisms’.

    I am a serious ‘grammar queen’ which, I think, may have something to do with learning Latin at school. I’ll can’t resist just gently casting my oar in on the ‘ain’t’ question:
    You can say ‘ain’t’ if that’s the way your character / narrator speaks, but it isn’t grammatically correct in British English. However, check out Merriam Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ain%27t?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld

    …and have fun with NaNo..!

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    1. American, British and South African English – and then his name is English! Oh gosh! 😀

      In Swedish I know it “all”. You have to know grammar really, really well, if you want to be able to “play” with words and sentences. Seemingly, letting go of grammar rules to get a certain affect or to point out a specific character. And words like “ain’t” should always only occur in a persons vocabularly, as well as slang, dialects etc. Unless you choose to to write the entire text in a certain style. But then one must be consequent.
      Thank you for the link to Merriam Webster. Have tried to find something like that, but so far haven’t been that lucky.

      And Elaine really had a point there, I AM more used to American English, even though at school and later education, it always was British English we had to learn.

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  3. I agree with you, I think the writer’s voice is a style that can break traditional grammatical rules. When my short story was edited, the grammar was changed and it ruined my intention. I went back and corrected the editor’s changes by hand, it upset me that the editor’s voice, not mine, is on the printed final copy.

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    1. That’s just what I’m afraid of! That the editors voice should take over. (Not really, I wouldn’t accept it)
      My story is mine, and yours is yours! And our style, our tone should be what the reader gets.
      Sometimes I wonder about all those who are so keen on getting an editor to fix their manuscripts. Don’t they know how to write? Don’t they know how to build a story?

      To get advice and suggestions, is one thing, and hopefully there are good editors out there who knows that and don’t try to take over.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would agree about not using ain’t because it’s more slang than contraction.
    however, I would disagree about never using contractions. Fiction needs contractions or it can sound too formal. Isn’t and aren’t and didn’t and won’t are all fair game to me.

    And a good editor offers a fresh and experienced outlook on what the story does now, and what it can achieve with more clarity in certain areas.
    An editor should not ‘fix’ the writing, and they’re not proofreaders. A good editor knows how a story composition will best suit this writer and her story (like an artist getting advice from a Master, or a photographer ‘setting’ their shots).
    A proofreader does only spelling and grammar, and occasionally sentence structure (which can be ignored if it was done that way for a literary purpose).

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    1. I didn’t have in mind to use Elaine as an editor at all. First of all, it’s too soon to edit anything, and when it comes, I’ll do it myself. She isn’t able to edit even a short text, she hasn’t the know-how.
      But she knows grammar, and the only thing I asked her to do was to check out my weaknesses in that aspect.

      In one way she is too square in her mind, she goes literally to the rules and the rules only, isn’t able to think around corners nor detect the artistic ways of writing – by us who knows grammar well, and also can use the language to make a story enjoyable. With that little extra something. The literary purpose!

      In another way she is also a bit muddle-brained. That shows in the notes she gave me. Had a hard time to understand what she meant. “You make mistakes with that and that”, but she didn’t explain what the mistakes were, or how it should be or even where I could find my mistakes.

      “Be aware of the sentence constructions”, So what is it I do wrongly? It isn’t German where the verb should be set last in a sentence.

      The best advice from her, was to be consistent to write either in Am English OR in Br English – which I already knew. Then she added: you seem to be more used to Am English, and that’s true, I realized. So from now on, I’ll go for Am English.

      I also pointed out to her yesterday that my text are only the first draft, and I had told her earlier that I for now only wanted her to tell me about my weaknesses in the grammar. I know I have to learn more. Much more.
      Including about contractions and such.

      About ain’t – in my world of knowledge I should only use that form in a dialogue. Maybe only one part in a dialogue talks like that.

      In the body text, never. Unless the entire style of the story needs it. But that good in English – I am NOT!

      So guess how confused I got when she claimed if I used ain’t I should use it everywhere. Replace very isn’t and aren’t, as well.

      November 1st. Are you writing? So far I’ve landed 1445 words, but time is only 5:30 PM, I’ve been away for a couple of hours, and now I’ll keep on writing for a while longer. The idea I started with, seem to work. At least today. 😀
      Good luck to you! have fun! I have.

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